A Desperate Trek Across America

Florida panhandle, Fall 1528

The 250 starving Spanish adventurers dubbed the shallow estuary near their campsite the “Bay of Horses,” because every third day they killed yet another draft animal, roasted it, and consumed the flesh. Fifty men had already died of disease, injury, and starvation. What was worse, after having walked the length of Florida without finding gold, those still alive had lost contact with their ships. They were stranded in an alien continent. Read more »

Raiders Of The Lost City

In July 1911 the author’s father climbed a remote ridge in Peru to discover, amid an almost impenetrable jungle, the fabled lost city of Machu Picchu, last capital of the Inca Empire. Or so the story goes.


During the seventy-five years since Hiram Bingham first climbed the knifelike ridge above the Urubamba canyon, in Peru, and set foot in the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu, thousands following his trail have felt their spirits lifted by the grandeur of the setting and the splendor of the granite ruins. The great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was inspired to make Machu Picchu the focus of an epic poem on human suffering and aspiration.Read more »

Ordeal in Hell’s Canyon

The first men to follow Lewis and Clark across the continent to the Pacific were John Jacob Astor’s fur traders. They discovered the formidable chasm of Idaho’s Snake River—and almost never got out

On October 21, 1810, a large party of fur traders left St. Louis, bound up the Missouri River for the mouth of the Columbia. Before it reached its goal, its members experienced hunger, thirst, and madness, suffering perhaps the most extreme privations and hardships of any westering expedition in American history.

The Question Is: How Lost Was Zebulon Pike?

In a strange message to the intriguing General Wilkinson, the soldier-explorer seemed to predict his own geographical befuddlement and his capture by the Spanish.

In the deepening snows of a high mountain valley, about where Salida, Colorado, now stands, a band of sixteen men were gathered on the day before Christmas, 1806. Earlier they had been separated into straggling parties to forage and explore, but now they were united. Earlier they had been wretchedly hungry, but now they had been so fortunate as to kill several buffalo cows.

The Voyage Of Nor’west John

Curiosity motivated the first American who crossed Siberia. But he also made a handsome profit.

In August, 1804, a young sea captain named John deWolf sailed from his native port of Bristol, Rhode Island, on a voyage to the Pacific. Four years were to elapse before he returned from a fabulous adventure that had taken him around the world. In the course of his trip, he had spent a year in the lonely outposts of Russian Alaska and had crossed the wastes of Siberia—a feat accomplished by no American before him, and few Europeans.

The Elizabethans And America

“To push back the consciousness of American beginnings, beyond Jamestown, beyond the Pilgrims, to the highwater mark of the Elizabethan Age” -- Part One of a New Series.

With this account of the Great Queen and her captains and their struggle to master a great prize—the New World—we commence a series of articles specially prepared for AMERICAN HERITAGE by A. L. Rowse, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and author of many distinguished books, among them The England of Elizabeth. The series is based on Dr. Rowse’s recent George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures, given at Cambridge University and named for the dean of British historians.Read more »

La Salle And The Discovery Of The Great West

The story of La Salle’s exploration was magnificently told in Francis Parkman’s The Discovery of the Great West. First published in 1860, this classic work was completely revised after Parkman gained access to a treasure trove of French manuscripts, and was republished in 1879. A selection from Parkman’s history, dealing with La Salle and the episodes which are shown in the Catlin paintings, begins below.

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A Record Filled With Sunlight

John Charles Frémont never succeeded in living up to his fame, yet he was one of America’s great explorers

Rolling plains covered with dry bunch grass stretch for miles on every side. Far on the northern horizon lifts an enormous square-topped butte, giving individuality to that quarter of the landscape. Westward, faint in the distance but brought into hard relief as the sun sets, are penciled the snowy peaks of an isolated mountain chain; and close inspection shows that near their base the country dips into a narrow valley, with cottonwoods indicating a stream whose waters are fed by these distant summits.

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First "Dude Ranch" Trip to the Untamed West

Never again can there be a hunting party as gay or as risky as the one Sir William Stewart devised in 1843

In May, 1843, with the first greening of the prairie grass, a strange caravan, billed as a “Sporting Expedition to the West,” rolled spiritedly out from the Missouri frontier past tight-lipped groups of emigrant families grimly preparing what history would call the first great migration to Oregon. It was three years before Parkman, five and more before the California gold rush, and what was still to gain popular calling as the Oregon Trail had never before seen the likes of this train.